Abkhazia: Amateur Cartography, Points of Reference, and Means of Assembly

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Oksana Zaporozhets

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Abstract

Part of a series of essays by Russian sociologists who took part in a two-week “fieldwork school” on both sides of the Russian-Abkhazian border in 2005, this paper recounts the author’s attempts to decipher the ways in which Abkhazia’s image is constructed by Russian visitors. A range of metaphors and associations is available to describe the Caucasus as a whole, drawing on Soviet-era stereotypes of the Black Sea coast’s attraction as a tourist destination as well as post-Soviet perceptions of violence and danger. Abkhazia is rarely singled out in such descriptions. Locally-produced images of Abkhazia addressed to Russian visitors tend to stress historical and cultural commonalities, whereas constructions of a separate Abkhaz identity are mostly directed at local residents and use tourists only as passive sounding boards. Visitors experience otherness due to the often clumsy and parochial ways in which touristic images of Abkhazia are presented, regardless of the content of these images. In Russian, summary in English.
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